At its inception in 1974, the goal of the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation (NWTHC) was to create innovative housing programs based on need and to make available the best possible housing to all residents of the Northwest Territories (NWT). Today, our goal is still the same. Over the decades, in an ever-changing environment and with increasing need we continue to supply a vast array of housing and housing services to NWT residents.
The NWTHC looks forward to a future of continued success in fostering emerging housing markets, strengthening its partnerships, and increasing available housing to bring down the Core Need Income Threshold (CNIT). As the NWT continues to grow and change, the NWTHC remains committed to providing residents of the Northwest Territories who require housing a means to achieve their housing goals.
During this time period, the Federal Government appointed Local Housing Organizations (LHOs) to deliver housing programs to the Northwest Territories. The NWT Housing Council approved the NWT Corporation Ordinance in 1972. In the period prior to the creation of the NWTHC, 216 units were rehabilitated to provide safe, adequate and affordable housing. More than 60 LHOs were appointed to manage 3,080 housing units, many of which were constructed under the Northern Territorial Rental Housing Program.
The NWTHC officially began operation as a Crown Corporation of the Government of the Northwest Territories in 1974. At its inception, the NWTHC delivered five programs under two categories: Rental and Purchase. Important milestones during this time included:
- The first units transferred to the NWTHC from the Federal Government were referred to as “matchbox” houses. These units were constructed using 2 x 4’s, with a maximum insulation rating of R12 in the ceilings, floors and walls. Unit sizes varied in size from 288 sq. ft to the largest units, 3-bedrooom units at a size of 720 sq. ft. Most of these units would have minimal heating and plumbing systems.
- The introduction of the Small Settlement Home Assistance Grant, or SSHAG. Commencing in 1977, SSHAG encouraged families in 22 designated communities to build their own homes from locally available material, with assistance provided to cover the cost of manufactured materials including windows, doors, hardware, etc. 119 homes were built through the life of SSHAG until the program was redesigned in 1982. SSHAG replaced the NWTHC’s first homeownership program, the Country Home Assistance Grant Program, which began in 1975.
- During the initial six years of its existence, the NWTHC constructed over 1,300 new rental units or public housing across the NWT. Some of the funding for the construction, operation and maintenance of these units was provided by the Canada and Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) through cost sharing agreements.
- During this time, the NWTHC used the “Weber” design for much of its new construction. Purchased from Weber Homes in Saskatchewan, these units were substantially larger than the “matchbox” homes (ranging from 896 to 1,600 sq ft). While meeting the immediate need for housing, it became apparent that additional design and construction features were required to meet the challenges of the Northern environment. 1979 saw the introduction of the Woolfenden design. This design was produced specifically for the North by the Woolfenden Design Group. Units were more energy efficient and ranged in configuration from one and two bedroom multi-plex configurations up to four bedroom single family dwellings. These units were partially pre-fabricated, and these packages were assembled by Ranger Homes of Hay River.
Changes are made to give the organization a more “corporate” appearance during this time, including the Managing Director being referred to as President. Important milestones included:
- The NWTHC introduced its first rehabilitation programs to renovate and repair “matchbox” and other homes. Repairs and improvements to homes would become one of the NWTHC primary methods to reduce core housing need in the future.
- In 1982, SSHAG was replaced by the Homeownership Assistance Program (HAP). Under HAP, grant levels were increased to $30,000 per household. HAP continued the NWTHC’s efforts to promote community development and self-reliance by encouraging individuals and community groups to solve their housing problems through their own organization and effort. HAP packages were provided to communities, each of which had a HAP supervisor to oversee construction. Clients then contributed sweat equity to the construction of their own homes.
- 1993 saw the introduction of the Senior Citizens Home Repair Program (SCHRP) which provided financial assistance to approved applicants who own their own homes for repairs and improvements.
- The NWTHC celebrates its ten-year anniversary in 1984. At this time, 15 programs under two categories, Homeownership and Rentals, are launched.
- 1984 was also the year of the expansion of the design services function for the NWTHC. Up to this date, NWTHC relied heavily on outside design firms to develop blueprints and construction plans for new dwellings. The expansion of the Design Services section allowed the NWTHC to tailor its plans to meet the environmental challenges of the North, while allowing input on design from communities and prospective clients alike. The Design Development section continues to develop new designs and configurations to meet the needs of communities.
The Legislative Assembly’s Special Committee on Housing tabled its report in June 1985. The report resulted in the formation of a new approach to housing delivery that emphasized community and economic development and mutual accountability. This was coupled with a major expansion of HAP in response to increasing demand among residents to own their homes rather than rent them. The NWTHC began delivering block HAP funding to communities in 1987, and increased its efforts to purchase materials for construction from local suppliers. During this time:
- The NWTHC introduced its Housing Needs Survey for the first time in 1985. The format of the Housing Needs Survey was a simple survey of LHOs to determine the number of new units needed to meet community demand. The 1989 survey identified a need for 3,146 new units across the Northwest Territories.
- The NWTHC implemented a community development strategy in 1988. This strategy included increased block funding arrangements with communities, new funding agreements with LHOs for the delivery of housing programs, and a community consultation process to identify eligible clients for HAP.
- As the 1980s drew to a close, the NWTHC celebrated its 15th anniversary. At this time the NWTHC was responsible for a total of 4,800 public housing units across the NWT, close to 300 of which were built in 1989. In addition, 1,372 households had received assistance under HAP to own and help construct their own homes.
The NWTHC celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1994. At this stage, design options for homes were expanded to permit barrier-free designs for persons with disabilities. The NWTHC had now constructed more than 6,000 houses.
- Philip Nukapiak, becomes the first Inuit chairman of the Board of the NWTHC.
- 1992 is the final year of the HAP program. Approximately 1,600 homes were constructed under HAP over its 10 year history. HAP is replaced by a series of homeownership programs that included Lease to Purchase, the Owner Build Program, and a Sale of Homeownership Packages program. The NWHC also begins offering direct lending of mortgages to clients, and introduces the Downpayment Assistance Program in 1994 to assist potential homeowners to receive mortgages from banks.
- Changes to the homeownership programs of the NWTHC are the result of drastic cuts in new construction funding from the Federal Government. In 1992-93, funding for new construction of social housing was reduced from $47 million to $14.7 million, and was reduced to $0 in 1994.
- In response to changes in federal funding and the need to maximize the impact of limited funding, the Housing Needs Survey was significantly improved in 1992. In an effort to objectively measure the need for new public housing, homeownership and repair in communities over 14,000 households were surveyed to get an accurate picture of core need in the NWT. According to this survey, 25% of households were in core need (households with a housing problem and without sufficient income to afford to solve these problems on their own).
- In 1994, the NWTHC’s design team, working in partnership with the elders of the community, received two Honourable Mentions in CMHC’s National Success in Native Housing Awards for the concept and design of the Andy Aulaljut Elder’s Centre in Arviat and a technological award for units designed under the Access Program.
This period of time is characterized by significant changes in the delivery of housing. The end of social housing funding, the signing of the Social Housing Agreement with the Government of Canada and the division of the NWT into two territories had significant impacts on the NWTHC which continue to this day. Important milestones during this time include:
- The 1996 Housing Needs Survey further expands to include over 18,000 households. Core need has been reduced from 25% to 23.1%.
- In 1996, the NWTHC introduces Plan 2000, a strategy to assist 2,000 households by the year 2000. This plan is deemed to be a success, with nearly 2,000 repair and construction projects taking place prior to the creation of Nunavut.
- As of April, 1997, the NWTHC received responsibility for the administration and management of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's northern portfolio. Over the years 5,800 social housing units were developed in the Northwest Territories under various programs, some of which were administered by CMHC and others by the NWTHC. Negotiations with CMHC in 1996 resulted in an agreement being signed to transfer the management and administration of all federally cost-shared social housing in the Northwest Territories. Under the new CMHC-NWTHC agreement, the North received social housing funding from the Government of Canada for each year, based on agreed 1995/96 levels. These commitments, made over a period of 40 years, will expire on a staggered basis until full expiry occurs in 2038.
- In 1997, the Expanded Downpayment Assistance Program (EDAP) replaced the Downpayment Assistance Program, the Purchase Program, Access Program (lease to purchase and owner build), the Forgivable Loan Program, Direct Lend Program and Home Improvement Program, and became the NWTHC’s primary homeownership program. Applicants for this program were required to obtain a private mortgage or loan, with a subsidy provided by the NWTHC ranging from 70 per cent of the cost for lower income families down to five per cent. The maximum construction cost was set for each community based upon the average cost of a modest three bedroom home.
- The Independent Housing Program was also introduced in 1997 to assist lower income families with housing needs to obtain modest homes. Clients under this program required the financial resources to operate and maintain a house and in some cases are required to pay a small mortgage directly to the NWTHC. The repayable portion of the loan, if any, were to be paid monthly based on an income graduated scale over a 15 year period.
- The NWTHC in partnership with the NWT Bureau of Statistics, LHOs and communities, completed the 2000 NWT Housing Needs Survey in all communities in the NWT. The survey identified 13,405 occupied dwellings. An estimated 4,037 households had some form of housing problem (30%), while 2,726 households were in core need (20%). This reduction in core need can be partly attributed to the division of Nunavut, though new construction and repair under Plan 2000 also had a positive impact.
The NWTHC continues to work towards the reduction of core need across the NWT. Recent years have brought significant reductions in core need, a streamlined program structure, and the first significant federal investment in new construction in over a decade. Significant milestones during this period include:
- In 2002, the NWTHC renews its commitment to work in partnership with communities and aboriginal organizations through the Universal Partnership Agreement (UPA). The UPA builds on existing program delivery through LHOs and recognizes opportunity for growth and capacity development. The UPA provides the community or aboriginal group with increased flexibility and decision-making ability at the local level. As of 2007, UPAs had been signed by 18 communities.
- In 2004, the Corporation celebrates its 30th anniversary. This coincides with the release of results from the 2004 NWT Community Needs Survey. According to this survey, core need has decreased from 20% to 16% - far exceeding the Corporation’s goal of a reduction to 19%.
- In 2006, the Federal Government approves $300 million in housing funding for the three territories under the Northern Housing Trust, $50 million of which is allocated to the NWT. The NWTHC and the GNWT announce a matching contribution of $50 million, for a total investment of $100 million over three years. This funding will see over 500 new affordable homes delivered in communities across the NWT by 2009.
- Also in 2006, the NWT mandate is revised to reflect a renewed focus on ensuring that an adequate stock of affordable housing is available for residents. Responsibility for the public housing subsidy is transferred to the Department of Education, Culture and Employment in an effort to increase awareness of the true cost of social housing and allow the NWTHC to focus on its new mandate.
- In 2007, Housing Choices is introduced as a new program structure that replaces the previous program offerings of the NWTHC. It consists of four programs that are progressive in nature and reflective of the needs of our clients. The four programs are:
- Solutions to Educate People (STEP)
- Homeowner Entry Level Program (HELP)
- Providing Assistance for Territorial Homeownership (PATH)
- Contributing Assistance for Repairs and Enhancements (CARE)
Housing Choices offers greater flexibility than previous programs. The new programs offer standardized and consistent program requirements as wells as expanded eligibility criteria. An enhanced education and counselling component allows clients to be equipped with the knowledge and tools to become more self-reliant and responsible homeowners. In addition, the number of programs is been reduced from 14 to four offering clients a streamlined approach.
NWTHC’s Framework for Action 2008-2011 Capital Delivery – Affordable Housing Initiative (AHI) and Year 1 of Economic Stimulus
- The NWTHC continues to carry out the actions and deliverables outlined under the initiatives set out in its Framework for Action 2008-2011. Two of the main initiatives are obtaining funding for new affordable housing (which includes the completion of the AHI delivery) and public housing replacement and repair. Following consultations between the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories in late 2008, a new housing construction strategy was developed to create a second phase of the intensified construction program that began in 2006 through the Northern Housing Trust and cost-sharing by the GNWT. In 2009, Canada announced significant funding for housing in Canada’s north through its Economic Stimulus program. As a result, a further $58 million will be invested in the NWT during fiscal years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Thanks to the GNWT matching the funds, total investment in housing will be nearly $120 million which is being used for new construction and repair programs.
- Mortgage Collections and Mortgage Payment Plan Under the mortgage payment plan, collections of mortgage payments have resulted in $1.1 million. As of March 31st, 2009, 99 clients have agreed to repayment plans. Although the NWTHC is making progress on these, it will commit additional staffing to this effort in order to accelerate this process. Two term positions have been created in the Program and District Operations Division to provide additional support to district offices.